Monday, February 20, 2012

“No” Means “No”

Every family has its own unique style of humor.  I don’t think the Smiths and the Cowans (my mom’s family) are more unique than any other family, but we’ve been known to be pretty quirky.  Here, let me illustrate:

Carl and the gal he went a'courtin'.
My dad, Carl, met his future bride, Ruth at college in Texas in the ‘30s.  Love blossomed quickly.  One summer, Carl wanted to be around Ruth between semesters so he traveled down to the Texas Hill Country to be around the Cowans – one in particular.  He spent the summer cutting cedar trees for fence posts.  Word got around that Carl was going to ask Ernie, Ruth’s dad, for Ruth's hand in marriage.  Ernie was a sweet man with a wry sense of humor that permeated throughout his family.  Word found its way (through the feisty Cowan boys) back to Carl that “no matter what Carl said, the answer was going to be ‘NO’.”   You know I love a cliff-hanger so let’s break here for a word from our Sponsor:
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. …  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Romans 7:15, 19)
Followers of Jesus, it is expected, want to say “No” to temptations from Satan… and to the sin that follows if we do not resist temptation.  Followers of Jesus understand this tension between knowing what you should do and what you actually do.  Paul may well have been the most mature Christian who ever lived, but he did not experience perfection.  HOWEVER, Paul was never satisfied with imperfection.  He constantly strove to say “No” to Satan and “Yes” to the higher calling of Jesus’ perfection (see Philippians 3).  Followers of Jesus must never let the tension between good and evil overcome us.  Daily we pray for guidance and encouragement to just say “No” to temptation.  It’s not easy, but it is the only path to victory.

Well, back at the ranch, Carl knew what Ernie’s answer was going to be long before he ever asked the big question.  That turned out to be quite an advantage for the strapping young lad from the Panhandle.  As my dad liked to say, “I screwed my courage to the sticking-place” and met up with Papa Cowan – knowing full well, the answer was going to be a resolute and final “NO”. 

“Mr. Cowan, do you have any objection to me marrying your daughter?”

Papa Cowan and the daughter he "lost"
due to an unforeseen flip of the script.
(And your hosts tiny little forehead
in the foreground.) 
Half the Hill Country fell silent as Carl flipped the script.  But Ernie Cowan’s word was his bond, he surrendered, “No.”  That’s the kind of cleverness and humor that’s imprinted all Carl and Ruth’s kids and their kids.  Early on in my sons’ lives I told them that story and then tested to see what they’d learned.  Expectant young lads would enter the room and begin their plea, “Dad…”.  I’d cut them off at just the prologue.  “The answer is ‘No’.  What is your question?”  They new something was afoot.  Isaac, the oldest, figured out quickly how to flip the script.  Noah, the Cookie Monster, knew that he needed to reverse something, but couldn’t always work it out… “May you please not let me have any more cookies, please?”  They always got their permission, but they also received an ancient blessing of humor from the salt cedar groves of central Texas.

Follower of Jesus, the struggle against sin is difficult and life-long, but don’t give up.  I do not pretend to simplify a battle that has raged since the Garden of Eden, but I want to plant this in your mind as a starting point.  When Satan tempts you, “Wouldn’t you like some wealth / popularity / gratification / fill-in-your-particular-blank?”, is saying “No” the right answer? 

Personally, I’d love some wealth today, maybe some immediate gratification while I’m at it.  “No” is not the true answer.  “Yes” is what I want to say.  So let’s try this, “Yes, the temptation you put before me is exactly what my life-on-earth would like.  Nice selection.  But Satan, I’ve already said ‘Yes’ to the higher calling of following Jesus, so I’m going to continue pursuing that.”  Flip the script and call upon the Holy Spirit to remind you of your upward journey.  You said “Yes” to Jesus.  “Yes” means “Yes”.

By the way, Carl and Ruth, they lived happily ever after.  Amen.

Clark H Smith

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